beowulf' and other old english poems (the middle ages ... and other...well- the negative side, ......

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  • "Beowulf" And Other Old EnglishPoems (The Middle Ages Series)

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  • The best-known literary achievement of Anglo-Saxon England, Beowulf is a poem concerned with

    monsters and heroes, treasure and transience, feuds and fidelity. Composed sometime between

    500 and 1000 C.E. and surviving in a single manuscript, it is at once immediately accessible and

    forever mysterious. And in Craig Williamson's splendid new version, this often translated work may

    well have found its most compelling modern English interpreter.Williamson's Beowulf appears

    alongside his translations of many of the major works written by Anglo-Saxon poets, including the

    elegies "The Wanderer" and "The Seafarer," the heroic "Battle of Maldon," the visionary "Dream of

    the Rood," the mysterious and heart-breaking "Wulf and Eadwacer," and a generous sampling of

    the Exeter Book riddles. Accompanied by a foreword by noted medievalist Tom Shippey on

    Anglo-Saxon history, culture, and archaeology, and Williamson's introductions to the individual

    poems as well as his essay on translating Old English, the texts transport us back to the medieval

    scriptorium or ancient mead hall to share an exile's lament or herdsman's recounting of the story of

    the world's creation. From the riddling song of a bawdy onion that moves between kitchen and

    bedroom, to the thrilling account of Beowulf's battle with a treasure-hoarding dragon, the world

    becomes a place of rare wonder in Williamson's lines. Were his idiom not so modern, we might

    almost think the Anglo-Saxon poets had taken up the lyre again and begun to sing after a silence of

    a thousand years.

    Series: The Middle Ages Series

    Hardcover: 288 pages

    Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (June 30, 2011)

    Language: English

    ISBN-10: 0812243455

    ISBN-13: 978-0812243451

    Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches

    Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)

    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 starsSee all reviews(1 customer review)

    Best Sellers Rank: #1,606,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books) #122 inBooks > Literature &

    Fiction > Poetry > Regional & Cultural > European > Norse & Icelandic Sagas #247 inBooks >

    Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Ancient, Classical & Medieval > Medieval #967 inBooks >

    Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Themes & Styles > Epic

  • Following an admirably informative and clear introduction on Old English poetics, Williamson offers

    a very good translation of Bowulf, both in terms of its fidelity to the source material, and in terms

    of its (much more difficult to quantify) poetic "feel." Not only does Williamson do a good job of using

    alliteration without being very conspicuous about it (none of the "six sly snakes sip straws by the

    stream" kind of thing), but he carefully chooses a vocabulary which suggests timelessness without

    archaism. This is a major problem with some Bowulf translations, which use such an archaic

    register of English that one needs a glossary to read them - or such a modern vocabulary that the

    poem never really gets a chance to cast its spell. Some sections in particular - Bowulf's boasts in

    Heorot, Wiglaf's speech to the cowardly retainers, and several of the fight scenes - are really

    well-rendered.On the negative side, there are slips, where words that seem excessively modern

    creep through - "cancel my days" (l. 640), "cheap bargain" (l. 2415), and "East-Germanic tribes" (l.

    2496), for example, broke the flow of the writing to me. The translator is clearly a fan of J. R. R.

    Tolkien, and the nods to, and citations of, Tolkien sometimes seem excessive.But the best part of

    this book is suggested by the other half of its title - "Other Old English Poems." Williamson's

    translation of Bowulf falls a little short of Liuzza's for me in terms of fluency and art (but a good

    way ahead of Heaney's).

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